2018_03: Houseless Reflections
In 2016 the RE/PUBLIC, a collaboration between PI.KL Studio, K.Lechleiter Architect, and LED-BETTER STUDIO at the time, submitted a proposal for the BMA Imagining Home Exhibition. This proposal was listed as a semi-finalist, but ultimately was not selected. The writing below is an excerpt from that proposal.
There is a distinct difference between HOUSE and HOME.
A house is of structural significance - wood, concrete, sometimes steel - a concert of refined materials assembled to define space for living. By itself it is no more than walls, floors and a roof. A house without people is no more than an object.
A home is something imagined, a state of mind as it were. A house becomes a home when the people living within the walls of the structure elevate the importance of it. They begin to alter the space, add fixtures and furnishings, add pictures and paintings, add aromas and color; they begin to transform the quality of space into something they connect with, emotionally. What was once a matter of defined space becomes a defined place – a place of importance, and for the residents it becomes the center of the world. A home, therefore, is the comfort and trust associated with feeling secure and safe. It is inherently emotional.
A HOME is also the root of the definition of HOME-less.
When one is without shelter, we do not say ‘house-less’ as the structure that defines what is a shelter is of less importance than the emotional attachment one has with their own center of the world. Each human being on the planet has an inherent right to connect with a place that provides them comfort and centering. When access to this is disrupted or taken away, an individual can become emotionally nomadic – a broken state of mind beyond the physical condition of being without shelter.
By defining home as an emotional state of mind, we re-define the definition of ‘homeless’ This new definition is more accepting of the true condition. It includes those that are typically seen as the stereotypical homeless, however it also includes people with employment but without a livable wage. It re-structures the scope of inclusion outside of the federal standards. And it begins to associate the homeless condition with the struggle to find comfort and the struggle to connect with a place to call home.
Our definition of home has been largely impacted by The Women’s Housing Coalition, a non-profit in Baltimore that works to break the cycle of homelessness for women and children by providing affordable housing and supportive services to enable them to sustain social and financial independence. We understand there needs to be a shift when talking about what it is to be homeless. With their expertise and resident involvement, we intend to provide a voice for the unheard and share their experiences of home, conventional or not.
Our intention is to explore, define, and represent the metaphysical and emotional character of home - investigating how one makes a connection with a space, how space becomes personal, and the time it takes for a house to become a home.
There are two main components in the creation of a home; experience and personalization. It is the place where you have dinner with friends, where you play with your pets, where you sleep, where you make love, where you cry, where you laugh, where you read, and where you can simply just be. It is also the place that you fill with treasures and scrapbooks, pictures and posters, knick-knacks and furniture. Between experiences and personalization a space begins to become a reflection of those who inhabit it.
Additionally we are interested in an expansion of the dialogue between home and homeless. What are the effects on the human condition when the safety and well-being provided by the notion of home is blurred or removed? What is the true definition of the homeless circumstance? Can someone with shelter be homeless? What people would begin to be included in the definition if it is redefined as an emotional circumstance?
How critical is the emotional attachment to a place? How does a person make home in spaces that are limited in their capacity for comfort? By demonstrating the emotional connection to home, and then re-defining the condition of being homeless, we hope to open a dialogue about a forgotten class of people – people that fall into undefined categories, people without connections, people with limited means to connect with a place they can call home.